- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2007

Steve Spurrier has arrived seven years late to the simmering Confederate flag debate in South Carolina.

The timeline is about right for a coach who never could put a name to a player’s face while he was in the employ of the Redskins, a loaded nickname at least two newspapers in America have banned from its pages.

Enlightenment possibly becomes clearer to a college coach if a potential recruit of color of the North is taken aback by the symbol of the Old South, assuming American history is still taught in public schools.

If not, college recruiters are apt to give a quick history lesson to those teens who have South Carolina on their short lists.

Whatever the motivation, Spurrier thinks the flag should be removed from the Statehouse grounds in Columbia, S.C.

“My opinion is we don’t need the Confederate flag at our Capitol,” Spurrier said last weekend. “I don’t really know anybody who wants it there, but I guess there are a lot of South Carolinians who do want it there.”

His is a safe position destined to be achieved one of these years, despite the protests of those who see the flag as a symbol of their heritage.

The latter claim is persuasive enough, as compelling as blacks who see the flag as a symbol of hate and oppression.

As a son of Maryland, I do not have a stake in this flap.

Taking offense, of course, is a growth industry in America.

It often pays to be offended.

C. Vivian Stringer, the Rutgers coach whose players will be “scarred for life” from Don Imus, just landed a book deal.

The timing of the announcement was not accidental, coming just days after Imus received his pink slip and a nation talked itself into a stupor.

Taking offense includes those Native Americans who find fault with all the names that have been borrowed from their tribes, whether North or South Dakota.

We try to do them proud. Or say we do.

That is the spin behind the Redskins, believe it or not.

Whenever the late Jack Kent Cooke would be in the cross hairs of Native American protesters, he would elicit the support of Princess Pale Moon.

Her appropriation of the word pale was objectionable, if you wanted it to be.

The Confederate flag became the cause celebre of the NAACP in 2000, when the group called for a boycott of South Carolina’s tourism industry.

The boycott remains in effect today, the compromise of state lawmakers notwithstanding.

State lawmakers were motivated to move the flag from atop the Capitol dome to the Confederate Soldier Monument on the Statehouse grounds, a bit of redecorating that merely silenced the debate until another time.

Spurrier has reopened the debate, if only momentarily.

The state, after all, is comfortable with the flag-induced NCAA edict that prohibits it from playing host to championship events that are arranged in advance, such as the NCAA tournament.

The issue of the Confederate flag was crystallized for Spurrier last season, when a fan behind the ESPN “GameDay” set was shown waving it.

Spurrier called the fan a “clown,” if not a blight on the state.

“It was embarrassing to me and I know embarrassing to our state,” Spurrier said.

Who in the Washington region knew Spurrier cared so about social issues?

Here we thought he was just the old ball coach who won the preseason Super Bowl in Osaka, Japan, and otherwise worked on his golf game.

But here he is wading into a subject fraught with passion, if the blogs and message boards on the Internet are any indication.

“I realize I’m not supposed to get in the political arena as a football coach, but if anybody ever were to ask me about that [bleep] Confederate flag, I would say we need to get rid of it,” Spurrier said.

That is the old fighting spirit that was missing in the final months of his coaching tenure here.

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